Conflict Resolution

Academic vs Vocational Study: Helping your Child to Choose

By May 28, 2015 Jun 8th, 2015 No Comments

Helping children make important life decisions is one of the key roles a parent plays. If your child wants to study further, one of those decisions will be exactly what form that should take. With so many choices now available, what should we be considering?

The options
In 2003, the old system of universities and technikons was restructured so that many more South Africans could have access to tertiary education. We now have a choice of:

  • 11 traditional universities, offering academic or theoretical qualifications;
  • 6 universities of technology, with a primary focus on vocational learning; and
  • 6 comprehensive universities, which offer a mix of both.
  • For a useful quick reference guide to these institutions, see here.

Which type is best?

Not so long ago, an academic degree was seen as more valuable than a vocational qualification. With the changing job market though, and the advent of outcomes-based education across the board, this is no longer the case. Instead, the decision should be made based on the strengths and interests of the student.

If your child is fairly sure what kind of career they want, that will probably dictate which route they need to take. Some career choices are by their nature more academic, whereas others, traditionally known as “trades”, are no less professional, simply more practically-oriented.

What if they don’t have a specific career in mind?

As a place to start, consider the characteristics of the potential student.  For example, a vocational qualification works well for those who:

  • Prefer practical to mental activities
  • Enjoy working with their hands
  • Do well at figuring things out by doing them
  • Like to see immediate physical results for their efforts

An academic qualification may be best for those who:

  • Prefer mental to practical activities
  • Don’t like to get their hands dirty
  • Like to have all the theory before they take action
  • Are satisfied with less tangible results for their efforts

The wonderful thing about growing up is that career paths often become clearer as we experiment to find out what truly works for us. Give your child the opportunity to do that by helping them pick a place to start that suits who they are.

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